2021 Fantasy Injury Grades: How Worried To Be About Drafting Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Other Key Players

2021 Fantasy Injury Grades: How Worried To Be About Drafting Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Other Key Players article feature image
Credit:

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Amari Cooper.

Editor’s note: The following story has been updated since news broke on Aug. 5 that Kenny Golladay’s timetable to return from his hamstring injury is 2-3 weeks.


Injuries are an unfortunate and inevitable part of football. With the Hall of Fame Game and the official start of the 2021 NFL preseason nearly upon us, I discussed these injuries and how they could impact fantasy football on Tuesday’s episode of The Favorites podcast with Chad Millman, The Action Network’s chief content officer, and professional bettor Simon Hunter.

Below is a more in-depth look at injuries around the league to help you prepare for your upcoming fantasy drafts. I also included my very non-scientific “worry-o-meter,” which indicates on a scale of zero to 10 just how concerned I am about that player’s injury status when it comes to putting them on a fantasy roster this season.

Carson Wentz, QB, Indianapolis Colts

  • Injury: Foot
  • Timeline: 5-12 weeks
  • Current ADP: QB23

Wentz will miss five to 12 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a piece of bone from his foot, the estimated recovery from which puts his return between Week 1 and Week 7. The 28-year-old has a speckled injury history, which includes a season-ending ACL tear during the EaglesSuper Bowl run in 2017.

Jacob Eason — the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2020 — has gotten first-team reps in Wentz’s absence and will be the presumed starter during the preseason and into the regular season should Wentz be sidelined longer than five weeks. Eason is a clear downgrade for Indy’s pass-catchers.

Any time a signal-caller undergoes surgery should warrant concern and Wentz will face an uphill battle this season even when he returns. He is fresh off a disappointing season that ended after he was benched for rookie Jalen Hurts and needs to learn a brand new system under Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, who replaced Nick Sirianni earlier this year. Wentz would have benefitted from a strong offseason, both to build confidence and gain knowledge of the new system.

From a fantasy perspective, Wentz was only being drafted in two-quarterback or superflex formats. His absence will come at a detriment to the entire Colts offense, however, which could drag down the values of Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton.

Worry-o-meter: 7 out of 10

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

  • Injury: Shoulder (right)
  • Timeline: Day-to-day
  • Current ADP: QB5

The last image we have of Prescott is a gruesome one. The QB suffered a season-ending compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in Week 5 last year and is now set to miss the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday due to soreness in his throwing shoulder.

Prescott left practice last Wednesday with a mild strain, but told local media “everything’s fine.” Head coach Mike McCarthy emphasized that Prescott had not suffered a setback and told reporters on Tuesday the team is being “a little more conservative” with his rehab to ensure the injury “doesn’t turn into something bigger.”

Exercising caution makes complete sense when it comes to rehabbing Dallas’ $160 million star QB. Based on the information we have, Prescott should be back come Week 1 (and possibly earlier). Until we hear anything to the contrary, this is a low concern.

Worry-o-meter: 2 out of 10

Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams

  • Injury: Thumb
  • Timeline: N/A
  • Current ADP: QB13

Stafford suffered a freak contusion to his surgically-repaired thumb during training camp last week after banging his hand against a helmet. Medical imaging was negative, and the new Rams quarterback was expected to miss at least a few days.

Instead, the veteran signal-caller participated in the team’s first padded practice on Monday. Given the quick bounce-back and minor severity, it’s unlikely to impact Stafford’s Los Angeles debut.

Worry-o-meter: 1 out of 10

Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

  • Injury: Ankle
  • Timeline: Unknown
  • Current ADP: WR16

Cooper has not participated in any training camp activities due to a lingering ankle injury which required surgery in January. The veteran wideout has yet to be activated from the PUP list and will miss the Hall of Fame Game this Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say I’m quite 100% yet, to be completely candid,” Cooper told reporters on Tuesday. “But I’m real close.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones previously told the media Cooper would not practice until after the team’s second preseason game in Arizona.

Although it sounds like Cooper’s rehab is coming along as scheduled, his ADP and expert rankings have dropped while fellow receiver CeeDee Lamb’s stock has risen.

Worry-o-meter: 4 out of 10

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

  • Injury: ACL/meniscus
  • Timeline: Unknown
  • Current ADP: RB7

Barkley did not sound optimistic for a Week 1 return when asked about his rehab in July and remains on the PUP list. The Pro Bowl running back is recovering from surgery he underwent in October to repair a torn ACL and meniscus he suffered in Week 2 against the Bears last season.

Head coach Joe Judge told the media this week that in spite of Barkley’s absence from Giants training camp, the Year 4 running back is making “tangible progress every day.”

It’s unlikely we see Barkley at all during the preseason, but there’s at least a chance he returns for the start of the regular season. That said, the Giants offense still has numerous question marks heading into 2021, which includes a subpar offensive line that ranked second-to-last in sacks allowed per game last year. Barkley still has a first-round ADP, but carries significantly more risk than some of the other top-tier RBs.

Worry-o-meter: 6 out of 10

Kenny Golladay, WR, New York Giants

  • Injury: Hamstring
  • Timeline: 2-3 weeks
  • Current ADP: WR24

Golladay suffered an injury scare during 7-on-7 drills in Tuesday’s practice and was seen gingerly walking off the field with an apparent hamstring issue.

Initial reports on Wednesday indicated the injury is minor, but NY Daily News’ Pat Leonard reported on Thursday that Golladay will “probably” miss two to three weeks after visiting with a doctor. The 27-year-old former Lions star already has a speckled history with hamstring issues. He sat out five games as a rookie in 2017 with a strained hamstring and missed the first two games of the 2020 season with a hamstring injury.

The Giants may be exercising additional caution here in light of Golladay’s history, but it’s more than enough to raise concern for fantasy football.

Worry-o-meter: 5 out of 10

DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

  • Injury: MCL sprain
  • Timeline: 2-3 weeks
  • Current ADP: WR30

Smith is expected to miss at least a couple weeks of training camp (and possibly all of the Eagles’ preseason games) after suffering an MCL sprain in practice on Saturday.

Though the timeline and severity suggest Smith could be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, an early training camp injury does not bode well for the former Heisman Trophy winner. The 2021 first-rounder stands at a lean six feet, 166 pounds and elicited major concerns about his diminutive stature and durability coming out of college.

Another potentially tough blow to the Eagles’ receiving corps.

Worry-o-meter: 3 out of 10

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

  • Injury: Ankle
  • Timeline: N/A
  • Current ADP: WR45

Waddle is an active participant in Dolphins training camp, but there have been a number of concerning reports about the former Crimson Tide wideout, who missed most of the 2020 season with an ankle injury.

Waddle was described as walking with a limp from his surgically-repaired right ankle, which remains taped. Some observers also noted a visible lack of explosion from the 2021 first-round pick.

When asked about the injury, Waddle replied that he is “feeling good.”

While the injury is clearly not serious enough to keep the rookie receiver off the field, it is highly possible it takes a few games for Waddle to regain his speed and return to his Alabama form.

Worry-o-meter: 2 out of 10

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